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Campus Life

Policy Making Gets a Roadmap

University Council approves new process

Vice-President Todd Klipp says
the new process will be "as clear
and simple as possible."
Photo by BU Photo Services

If a group of students seeks a change in the University policy on guest housing, where should they turn? If faculty members want to alter the policy concerning professional work done outside BU, what steps should they take? If anyone at BU wants to propose a clarification in the computing ethics policy, how should he or she go about doing it?

To provide answers to such questions, the University Council has approved a process for developing policies that have broad application throughout Boston University. This process will “bring the right people into the room and into the conversation” concerning each new policy, says Todd Klipp, vice president and general counsel.

“What we have done is simply codify the processes that we have in place,” says President Robert Brown. “By formally stating the processes for developing policies and aligning the University Council committee structure with the process, we have confirmed our commitment as a community to having one set of overarching policies and to a transparent process involving all the stakeholders in the establishment of these policies.”

At its bi-semester meeting on October 18, the University Council — which includes Brown, Provost David Campbell, deans, vice presidents, and members of the Faculty Council — agreed upon a process in which all parties affected by an issue are represented during the development of a policy governing that issue.

“It’s a very rational process that has many opportunities for feedback,” says Julie Sandell, a School of Medicine associate professor and chair of the Faculty Council. “There are many steps in it where they’re taking pains to identify the stakeholders in a policy, [emphasizing] that people who are going to be affected by a policy are going to be consulted.”

Each proposed policy will be assigned to one of three parallel tracks: faculty, student, or administrative. For example, students wanting to change the guest housing policy would bring a proposal to Joseph Mercurio, executive vice president, or to Campbell. The University Council’s Committee on Student Life and Policies would then consider the issue — possibly seeking the advice of outside experts. After consulting students and others with a stake in the issue, a group designated by the committee would draft a policy for eventual approval by Brown. A similar process applies to faculty and administrative policies. Any member of the BU community can go to the relevant office and propose a policy change.

“At the end of the day,” says Willis Wang, deputy general counsel, “the final decision will be made by the president, but all stakeholders will have had input.”

The Office of the General Counsel spent considerable time developing the new process, according to Klipp. “We looked at the practices of a number of other institutions,” he says, “including most notably Cornell and Carnegie Mellon, and then, drawing upon that work, began crafting a process for policy development here at Boston University that was as clear and as simple as possible.”

A Web site is being created that will explain the entire process and contain all University policies, organized by category. “It’s actually challenging to find some policies on the BU Web site right now,” says Wang. “They are located in several different places.” So a single Web-based repository for this information is a key component of the new system.

“In the past,” Wang says, “policies were generally developed on an ad hoc basis. The process often wasn’t totally clear or consistent. Now, greater clarity and participation in the development process should lead to a clearer and more effective set of policies.”